52Frames 2020-02 – Leading Lines

I didn’t know exactly what to do for the second 52Frames theme of the year, Leading Lines – but last week I went for a tiny photo walk near the lake. A friend of mine had lent me his Sony NEX-7 so that I could have a look at the form factor and at the general feel of it – so that was an extra motivation to go out and shoot. I arrived at the lake at the same time as the boat, so I took a few pictures; I also experimented with the spyglass that’s nearby, but I didn’t manage to get something convincing leading-lines-wise.

On the post-processing side, of note – the pink/red nuances in the sky were there, but I spent some time making them somewhat more obvious; that’s probably a bit more “creative reality” than I usually do, but I don’t hate the result πŸ™‚

52Frames 2020-01 – Self-portrait

New year means – trying once again to restart 52Frames, and hope that it sticks, and if it doesn’t stick, well, it will have lasted for as long as it will have had, and hopefully I’ll get a few reasonable pictures out of it.

Traditionally, the first 52Frames theme of the year is the self-portrait – it’s actually a pretty good idea to kick-off the year, I think πŸ™‚

Last year, Pierre bought a few Yongnuo 300-III LED panels with which I hadn’t yet taken the time to play. So this self-portrait is my first foray into “proper” portrait photography with a three-point lighting – main light left and above, secondary light right and a bit lower, and light behind to separate the subject (err, me) from the backdrop (err, my black curtain in the TV room.)

I then ran a few edits on Darktable – fixing the exposition and whatnot, removing a couple of really major skin blotches (considering what’s left, I’ll let you imagine what I removed πŸ˜‰ ), and SHIP IT!

And I decided I was happy enough with it to change my 7+-year old Facebook profile photo – so you may have seen that picture already, but now you get a tiny bit of behind the scenes too πŸ™‚

#balisebooks – End of 2019

Version franΓ§aise ici : #balisebooks – Fin 2019

All right. It seems pretty obvious that even trying to get one #balisebooks a month actually doesn’t work, since I haven’t written one for all of the last trimester of 2019. Giving some more thought about it, I’m thinking that maybe it isn’t the frequency that’s a problem, but the fact that I try to be exhaustive here – and hence ending up procrastinating because there are books that I just don’t have much to say about. So let’s try the “non-exhaustive” approach, where I’m only going to talk about the books I really want to talk about, possibly keep a few books for a stand-alone post if I feel like it (because so far I’ve been avoiding that since I’ve grouped my book reviews in larger posts, and that’s not what I want to do anymore), and if you’re reaaaally interested about everything that I put in my hands, you can have a look at my GoodReads profile. Okay?

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems – Randall Munroe

The books of Randall Munroe (of xkcd fame) are pretty much an auto-buy for me, and actually usually a paper buy – because there’s enough graphical content that it’s awkward on Kindle. Which puts me in the awkward position of having a book, wanting to read a book, and then not necessarily read it fast because it’s in a format in which I don’t read much. First world problems, I tell you.

The subtitle of the book is a pretty good description of the book – the chapters are named “how to move”, “how to take a selfie”, “how to make friends”, but also “how to build a lava moat” and “how to make an emergency landing” which, admittedly, may be less “common” problems than others. And for each of these chapters, Munroe goes into his version of a “stand-up sketch With Science!”, going into tangents, weird corner cases, and ways to look at the problem that are… pretty uniquely his. To see what I mean, you can read How to Send a File, and have a few giggles. And all in all, it was a brilliantly entertaining holiday read πŸ™‚

Recommended to: fans of xkcd who like Munroe’s absurd approach to things; people who like their pop science with a (large) dash of fun.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

I love an intriguing and poetic title, and this one definitely did it for me – definitely an instance of “see title, put book on ‘to read’ list”. The title loses a bit of its mystery when you realize that the main character is called January, and we’re not talking about the month; but the “ten thousand doors” keep their appeal. This novel is the interleaved stories of a girl who finds a Door to another world, and of a scholar of said Doors. The prose is beautiful, I liked the story – which was fairly memorable too. The rhythm feels somewhat slow, especially at the beginning; and for me to say so may mean a lot, because I usually enjoy slow rhythms more than fast-paced plots that explode everywhere πŸ™‚ I almost gave up after the first third, but in the end I’m happy I didn’t, because I did enjoy the story of January.

Recommended to: people who enjoy a beautiful story set in a well-described environment, a slow rhythm and multi-voice narration.

A Ticket for Life – Marzia Mura

This one is maybe a bit of an outlier, because it may not be the most memorable book per se, but it IS a very pleasant read, and since it’s self-published, there’s a fair chance it’s not necessarily on many people’s radar.

It’s the story of Theresa and Andrew – they have a perfect life in a perfectly balanced utopia, part of a closed community that’s shut down from the rest of the world, and who have a very large probability of being able to live forever. But to keep the utopia sustainable, choices had to be made – and the hardest one for Theresa is the strict population control that’s applied to all the community inhabitants. The only way for her to have a child is to win a lottery, which does not happen often in the first place – and Theresa is very decided to skew the odds in her favor.

All in all, it’s a good thriller, and the dystopian world-building is interesting and well done – if you’re in the mood for that kind of story, there’s worse choices out there πŸ™‚

Recommended to: people who enjoy thrillers and dystopian settings.

The City Born Great – N.K. Jemisin

A short story, available here: The City Born Great. The premise is that when a city gets big enough, old enough – it gets a conscience and life of its own. And this time, it’s New York City’s time, and we follow the story of its reluctant midwife.

It’s frankly quite weird. Aaaaand super good. Which is pretty much what I can say about everything I read from Jemisin so far – it’s DEFINITELY more original and more demanding than a lot of things I read, and it’s ALWAYS worth it. There’s a book, due in March, called The City We Became, and that starts where this short story ends – I’m very much looking forward to it.

Recommended to: people who enjoy beautiful prose, engaged writing, and who like their fantasy reading to be challenging and original. Also, everyone, because it’s so short you may as well read it anyway.

Open Borders – The Science and Ethics of Immigration – Brian Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

Like Munroe’s, I tend to pick up most of the things that Zach Weinersmith (of SMBC fame) does. For this one, he’s been very clear that it’s somewhat removed from his usual body of works – Open Borders IS a comic book, but it is a comic book about immigration policy, which may not be the easiest topic (and definitely not the most consensual topic either πŸ™‚ ). In it, Caplan argues in favor of just opening the borders and let anyone who wants to immigrate in any country (well, specifically the US) do so. He goes through the commonly-heard (and less commonly-heard) arguments against it, and proposes solutions/measures to assuage most fears, without being dismissive of them. I learnt some stuff, and it gave me a lot of food for thought on some specific points. I wouldn’t expect that people who are absolutely opposed to the whole concept would change their minds about it, but it does present (at least seemingly) solid and pragmatic arguments.

Recommended to: people interested in political and social questions, who feel they could do with a bit more context and arguments about the immigration topic, and who are not afraid to get their opinions challenged.

Polaris Rising / Aurora Blazing – Jessie Mihalik

A lighter read: if you get a mix of space opera and romance where the space opera is entertaining and the romance is more than decent (hrm. Bad choice of words there. Decency called and is not happy.), I call that a win. Polaris Rising and Aurora Blazing are two novels set in the same universe, where the respective main characters of the novels are two sisters from one of the three High Houses that essentially rule the universe. There is quite a lot of action – , to be honest, sometimes a bit too fast-paced for my taste, likable characters, very good world-building on top of a neat universe. Plus, you know, kick-ass princesses, essentially. All in all, super-enjoyable fluff – and I’m all about super-enjoyable fluff.

Recommended to: lovers of fluff, space opera, and kick-ass princesses.

Comme un roman – Daniel Pennac

(translated to English as Reads like a Novel, Better than Life and The Rights of the Reader) I saw Comme un roman in my husband’s mother’s bookshelf, went “ooh, a Pennac I haven’t read”, and read it over Christmas. It’s a collection of four essays – or a single long one – about reading and readers. It starts with kids learning how to read, continue with teenagers learning about literature, teachers teaching and transmitting their love of reading, and ends with a general reader manifesto.

I absolutely loved everything about it – Pennac is one of my favorite French authors, his writing is consistently hitting just the right spot and the right turn of phrase, and his Comme un roman reads like reader candy.

Recommended to: everyone who likes the “meta” aspect of reading.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

I started the year with one of the most depressing reads in the past few months, possibly years. Everything I Never Told You starts with the death of Lydia, 16 – and moves around in everything that happened before and the aftermath of that tragic event in her family: her dad, her mom, her brother, her sister… and herself. As we learn more about the family dynamic, we also get some explanation about that night where everything changed. Tragic probably applies to the whole set of circumstances – which is probably what makes that novel so tough. There would be enough flaws in the characters to make them hard to understand, but I found myself empathizing with every single one of them, which makes Everything I Never Told You a fast emotional roller coaster. It’s consequently pretty hard for me to say if I even liked that book. It’s objectively superb, but I don’t see myself ever be able to re-read ever again. I think I want to read more of what Celeste Ng has written, though, so that’s probably a sign I did like it πŸ™‚

Recommended to: emotion-seekers, people who like tragedies and/or family stories.

Advent of Code 2019

2019 was the fifth year of Advent of Code – and I consequently spent December waking up at 6AM and spending a lot of brain cycles solving puzzles to bring back Santa from the other side of the solar system, where he was stranded.

Let me quote myself to describe the whole thing to the people who are not familiar with it.  Advent of Code is an advent calendar with puzzles that can mostly be solved by programming: the input is a problem description and a user-specific input (as far as I know, there’s a set of a β€œfew” pre-validated/pre-tested inputs), and you have to compute a number or a short string, and provide that as a result. If you have the correct result, you unlock a star and the second part of the puzzle, which allows to unlock a second star. Over the course of the 25 first days of December, you consequently get to collect 50 stars.

When I wrote my Advent of Code 2018 blog post last year, it was December 26th, and I had solved everything – this year it took me until yesterday (so, December 31th) before I got the 50th star. I don’t know if the problems were harder or if I got worse at solving them (maybe a mix of both?), but I still made it before the end of 2019, so I’ll count that as a win πŸ™‚

This year, I worked in Kotlin, a JVM-based language designed by JetBrains, and that I enjoy quite a lot – it is fully compatible with Java, and allows for a much terser syntax, and requires to do things explicitly when it comes to mutability of variables and collections. I like it. My solution repository is on GitHub – beware, here be dragons… and spoilers!

And, like last year, let me give a few impressions of the different puzzles for this year. I WILL spoil the problems and at least hint at their solutions – if you want to start solving the problems with no preconception at all, you may want to stop reading here πŸ™‚

Continue reading “Advent of Code 2019”

Cool stuff

It’s not Friday, but if I’m going to write a coolstuff blog post for the end of the week, I may as well write one for the end of the year πŸ™‚

The Nixie Tube Story: The Neon Display Tech That Engineers Can’tΒ Quit [text, images, video] – a colleague of mine brought a Nixie tube clock in the office, so I looked into it, because it DOES look cool.

Chernobyl Dice – A quantum random number generator with a Cold War aesthetic [text, images] – going further in previous rabbit hole, a very cool “advanced DYI” project that generates random numbers from a weakly radioactive source and displays them on said Nixie tubes πŸ™‚

darktable 3.0.0 [text] has been released last week. I’ve been using it for all my photography processing for the past few years, and I’m thoroughly impressed by what it can do and by the people behind it.

The Motions of Kayaking and Canoeing Recorded through Light Painting on Canadian Waterways [images] – what happens when you stick leds to kayak paddle? You get pretty pictures, that’s what happens.

We Learned to Write the Way We Talk [text] – I thoroughly enjoyed Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet this year, where she looks at Internet communication from a linguistics perspective – this article is a nice taste of what’s in the book, and an interesting view on writing styles.

Copperplate Study Session [text, images] – I’ve been playing with Copperplate calligraphy a bit last year, and it’s in my objectives for next year to master that, and I think this series of Reddit posts on the topic may just be what I was looking for πŸ™‚

I’ve recently learnt about figurate numbers [text, images] by way of learning about heptagonal numbers [text, images] (via some middle school math homework), and I spent enough time on Wikipedia to warrant their entry in coolstuff πŸ™‚

Quanta Magazine has run a few articles about what happened this year: The Year in Math and Computer Science [text], The Year in Biology [text] and The Year in Physics [text]. I had seen almost everything in the “math” article, so it was a nice trip down “memory lane” on things I thought were cool at the time (and a few that I had missed); the “biology” and “physics” ones were nice entry points to stuff I had mostly missed.

Woman Pushes The Limits And Creates Unbelievable Sculptures Out Of Gingerbread [text]- if the gingerbread xenomorph is not called Gigerbread, this would be a good reason to flip tables.

Swiss Police and Star Wars Christmasspot [short video] – I did giggle a lot at this video from Bern Kantonpolizei. It has stormtroopers.

My problem with metric recipes [short video] – the title of the video let me fear the most trollful content, but that would be selling Adam Ragusea short – it’s actually quite insightful, and he’s making great points about recipe translation.

Cool stuff

A tiny pre-holidays coolstuff? Let’s.

Micro chess / DIY [video, mid-length] – a video of someone making a tiny chess set. It’s super impressive, adorable (because TINY) and generally exquisite.

Markus Reugels on 500px [images] – someone doing (among others) very cool pictures of drops and splashes.

It’s Way Too Easy to Get a .gov Domain Name [text] – there IS a quote in there that says β€œI never said it was legal, just that it was easy”, but I still found it an interesting read πŸ™‚

TasteAtlas [maps]- maps are good, food is good, LET’S MIX BOTH. With subcategories, such as World Cheese Map or World Dessert Map.

The difference between a snafu, a shitshow, and a clusterfuck [text]- it’s all in the title, and I found that piece pretty entertaining, and surprisingly informative πŸ˜›

Fraktur and the psychology of type [text] – an article about the fraktur typeface and its association, in particular in Germany, with the Nazis – and the impact of that association in today’s print and calligraphy practice.

Making chocolate colourful – apparently there’s a way to make chocolate shimmer with structural properties. That’s pretty cool πŸ˜€

Happy holidays, everyone!


For the fifth year in a row, we went last week to Essen for the SPIEL board game fair. Four days of wandering in the halls, of playing a fair amount of games, of shopping… and a few very nice restaurants and cocktails in the evening, because why not πŸ˜‰

This year felt somewhat less crowded than the previous years, to the point that I got slightly worried – but they did announce a 10% increase in visitors compared to last year (reaching 209K visitors); I guess the increase in surface compensated for that. But let’s talk games!

Myraclia, Rudy3 – a game where players draft cube ressources from a randomly-chosen pool, and use these cubes to terraform tiles that may give bonuses for the following turns. Very pretty and interesting mechanics; the game is on late pledge/pre-order on Kickstarter, and we ordered it.

Myraclia, Rudy3

Copenhagen, Queen Games – I liked the box art, and that’s probably the main reason why this game ended up on my list of “things I’d like to have a look at”. It’s a game where players gather cards to buy polyomino tiles to build a building facade and gather victory points as they go. It’s not a bad game, but it didn’t really click with any of us.

Imperial Settlers Roll&Write, Portal Games – a common dice roll is used as number of actions and resources to build a civilization over 10 rounds. I quite liked it, and I think I would like the solo/adventure mode, but as it is it’s a bit annoying to remember how many actions you did (and you can probably end up going to do 6 or 7 on one turn, depending on bonuses) and the resources you’ve used. Not convinced enough.

Periodic, Genius Games – I think we both really wanted to like that one, because how cool/nerdy is a game where you move around the periodic table? And where, when you ask if there’s a way to get more energy to move around the periodic table, the person at the demo explains to you that “well, no, because energy is never created or destroyed, duh”? And it is indeed pretty cool to zoom around the periodic table, but the mechanics themselves felt pretty flat. Let’s put it that way – as an educational game, it’s probably a good one; as a themed game, it was a bit disappointing.

Periodic, Genius Games

De Stijl, Quick Simple Fun Games – this one caught my eye because of its Mondrian aesthetics. Players add cards displaying 9 colored squares to the game, covering between 2 and 5 existing squares; at the end of the game, the score is computed both on the number of distinct areas and on the size of the largest area. Quite pretty, and probably takes a few games to master, but not necessarily our type of game.

De Stijl, Quick Simple Fun Games

Welcome to New Las Vegas, Blue Cocker – a roll&write without dice πŸ™‚ Players need to build casinos on their sheet, and to achieve that there is three decks of cards that give a number (that yields constraints on its placement on the sheet) and actions (that allows to eventually win points). Actually quite fun, although we messed up a rule that made our scores explode compared to the typical score πŸ˜‰ However, it’s not available yet! Buuut it’s a new take on another game, Welcome to Your Perfect Home, where players build houses instead of casinos – so we got that one instead. The “Las Vegas” version is slightly more complex, but Perfect Home has another interesting set of constraints and goals – where most of the player interaction happens, since there’s a race to reach these goals first.

Welcome to New Las Vegas, Blue Cocker

Empire of the North, Portal Games – a close cousin of Imperial Settlers, which I like a lot. Players also get to build their civilization and engine by adding cards to their board, and there’s a few additional mechanics, such as the possibility to go explore distant islands that yield extra bonuses. The food tokens still look like tomatoes (although they’re officially apples), and there’s also get fish as well in this version πŸ˜‰ Pierre says it’s the game Imperial Settlers should have been; I might agree. We bought it as well as the Japanese Islands expansion.

Paranormal Detectives, Lucky Duck – we didn’t play that one, we only watched the explanation and the beginning of the game. Someone has been killed, and their ghost is haunting the detectives in charge of the case in order to make them understand what/where/how everything happened. And for that, they have a number of means at their disposal, that go from miming to a ouija board or even trying to assemble a hangman rope to give clues. That actually looked pretty fun, but probably not a good fit for us πŸ™‚

Century: A New World, Plan B Games – the third game of the Century set of games, which can all be played individually or combined. The base mechanics is the same for all three: players can gather resources that they can upgrade via different actions. In the first game, the actions are given by cards that can be bought; in the second game, the actions involve moving on a map; in the third game, we get worker placement mechanics. We both like the first game and its simplicity – it has the same feeling as Splendor, and a bit more complexity, and the Golem edition is very pretty; New World is kind of nice, but not necessarily the one we’d buy in this collection.

Century: A New World, Plan B Games

Azul: Summer Pavilion, Next Move Games – we also didn’t play this one, only got a vague idea by watching people play for a few minutes. It’s the third Azul game, with the same mechanics of picking tiles as the first two (except now there’s also wildcard tiles). Here, the tiles are put on stars, where each branch of the star needs a different number of tiles. The mechanics of placement are slightly different from the other two Azul, but not necessarily enough of a different game to justify a buy, considering we already have (and enjoy) the Stained Glass version. It still looks very pretty, though.

Azul: Summer Pavilion, Next Move Games

Deep Blue, Days of Wonder – the Days of Wonder of the year. This time it’s a push-your-luck game, with a diving theme, where players try to get the largest amount of treasures (and hence monies, and hence points) without getting hit by the lack of oxygen or harpoons. They start with a hand of cards that allows different actions and, to help them, they can recruit more people (get more cards) that will get them bonuses or additional actions. I liked it way more than I thought I would (it’s fun!), the production quality is at the usual very high Days of Wonder standards, it plays up to 5, and we ended up grabbing a copy (finding a non-German copy in the Asmodee shops ended up being a fail; we ended up finding a French copy directly at Days of Wonder where they had a few French boxes behind the desk.)

Deep Blue, Days of Wonder

Amul, Lautapelit – we had played a prototype of that one last year under the name Silk Road, and it was a pleasure to see the final version and to play it again (with a group of people coming from Singapore!) At every turn, players get a new card, choose a card to put on the common market, pick a card from said common market, and play a card on their board, trying to gather sets and get actions that will eventually build points for the end of the game. The extra twist is that some cards only score when they are kept them in hand, and some cards only score when they are put on the table, yielding agonizing decision-making about what to do since it IS mandatory to put a card on the table πŸ˜€ Really liked it, and it plays up to 8 with mostly simultaneous playing; we grabbed a copy, and I’m looking forward to play it again.

Amul, Lautapelit

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes, Ravensburger – a board game adaptation of, well, Minecraft. Players can gather resources by mining them in a cube of resources, discover tiles, reconfigure their board, fight monsters, and score points doing all that. It is actually a very good adaptation of the video game, it’s not very deep but I could see that one working well in a family with kids – both simple enough and strategic enough for everyone to have fun. It’s a bit sad that the cardboard bits feel very flimsy (and that the scoring markers are larger than the scoring tracks! Infuriating πŸ˜‰ ) Not a buy for us, but I’m keeping it in mind as a gift idea for that kind of situation πŸ™‚

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes, Ravensburger

Glenmore Chronicles, Funtalis – a game full of Scotsmen and Scotland places and whisky, where players build their settlements by getting tiles on a track, producing resources, using resources, and trying to optimize the placement of their tiles to be able to activate them at all. One of the twists is that players get negative points at the end depending on the size of their settlements (the more tiles, the less points), so they need to get “as large as necessary, but not larger”. I lost that game SUPER BADLY, but I still enjoyed it a lot, and we came home with a box. On top of that, there’s 8 mini-expansions within the game, that all come with their little box that looks like a book, and that’s completely adorable (and no, I don’t have a picture, but believe me, it’s adorable.)

Project L, Boardcubator – players start with small polyomino pieces that they can upgrade, downgrade or change to other ones, and objective cards for which they need to gather a set of polyominos making the shape of the card (a bit like a tangram). They keep their polyominos and typically get new ones, which allows them to build more and more complex objective cards – and hopefully get more and more victory points. It’s quite pleasant and the material is really nice; I think it might have been a buy if it had been available on the booth (but it’s not out yet).

Project L, Boardcubator

Petrichor, Mighty Boards – a wonderful theme, since players get to play CLOUDS! They need to move around and strategize to rain at the right time on the right crops to get victory points. It’s quite brain-intensive because most of the actions have a delayed effect, but it looks really interesting, although I’ll definitely get an extra game or two to really get the feel for the game. We were on the fence for a while about getting it, but we ended up grabbing a copy at the end of the fair.

Petrichor, Mighty Boards

Dune, Gale Force Nine – yes, THAT Dune. I think this was the largest surprise for me this year. I tend to shy away from that kind of game that has diplomacy and alliances and mind games as a selling point. But we had a short talk with someone at the booth one of the evenings who was actually quite enthusiastic and selling it very well, so we ended up grabbing a demo game when we saw a table was getting free (while we were mulling over the Petrichor decision at the next booth). I was very, VERY lost at the beginning of the game because the explanations were somewhat confusing (to a very unpleasant point), but I finally got somewhat of a feel for the game and I ended up liking it a lot. The theme is strong, I played Harkonnen and I really enjoyed it, and it ended up being a game I reaaaally wanted to play again. They were out of stock on site, but they apparently had a bit of stock in an external warehouse; we ordered a copy, and it will hopefully arrive in our shelves soon.

Dune, Gale Force Nine

On the Underground: London/Berlin, LudiCreations – a transport network construction game where players try to have passengers move to their destinations in an optimal way. We only got the 3-minute explanation, no demo game, and I must admit I phased out for most of it (I probably got tired at that moment), so… I kind of don’t know πŸ™‚

On the Underground: London/Berlin, LudiCreations

Tiny Towns, AEG – a game where players gather resource cubes (via a common card mechanism) to build buildings on their own board using geometric constraints. I liked it a lot – we got a copy, which also unlocked THE GIGANTIC AEG BAG (people who ever went to Essen know what I’m talking about πŸ˜‰ ). I don’t THINK it had anything to do with the fact that I nuked the rest of the table, score-wise, but it sure didn’t harm πŸ˜‰

Tiny Towns, AEG

Curios, AEG – we usually don’t spend that much time on the AEG booth, and it may be a good thing, since we ended up buying this year the two games we tested by them! Curios is a game where players are trying to get the most value from artifacts that they can gather; the twist is that they do not know the exact value of said artifacts, they only have a few clues. It ends up being fun on a game theory level, and generally speaking quite enjoyable, short, and playing up to 5. We got a copy.

Little Town, Iello – players build a common city by adding tiles to a board and activating tiles around their player marker to gather resources (allowing to add more tiles). There’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s even a pretty good game I think, but it just didn’t click for me. I might have enjoyed it more at another moment, or, or, or (we’ll never know!)

Little Town, Iello

Crusaders, TMG – I must admit the theme is not necessarily something that appeals to me, but I really liked that game. Players get to move, build or attack according to a wheel around which they move tokens to get actions that are more or less strong, and the building that they build make these actions stronger. The wheel mechanic is a mix between the one from Finca and the meeple handling of Five Tribes; the whole game does have a bit of a Terra Mystica feel, and we ended up getting a copy. And since they were out of the regular box, we got the Deluxe edition – which has metallic victory points and very cool minis πŸ˜‰ (And a metal sword as a first player token!)

Wingspan, Stonemaier Games – I had been looking for an English demo of Wingspan to no avail on the fair – but thankfully a friend with whom we had shared a few cocktails in the evening found an English copy and we got to play it at the hotel bar in front of a couple of drinks πŸ™‚ It’s a bird collection and engine building game, it’s gorgeous (THE EGGS!), it’s the Kennerspiel des Jahres for this year, and it’s absolutely deserved. We found another English copy by chance at one of the store booths, and we didn’t hesitate much before buying it.

Wingspan, Stonemaier Games

Ganymede, Sorry We Are French – a racing game where players want to get their meeples from Earth to Mars to Ganymede, so that they can fly to galaxies far far away on their rocket ships. Quite pleasant, cool mechanics, but it apparently didn’t click enough to be a buy.

Ganymede, Sorry We Are French

Bruxelles 1897, Geek Attitude Games – I was intrigued by the Art Nouveau art, so I was happy when we found a table. Players get cards on a grid that give them different advantages; the twist is that the scoring also depends on the placement on said grid, and more specifically on the majority of money spent by players in each scoring track (column of cards). I’m not sure why I didn’t like it more, because it had potential to tick a lot of boxes, and it’s objectively well made, but it really didn’t click for me.

Bruxelles 1897, Geek Attitude Games

Just One, Repos Production – the Spiel des Jahres for this year. As far as we could tell, there was only one English table (and a lot of German ones) – and, definitely, for a word game, English is better for us πŸ™‚ It’s a light cooperative party game, somewhat akin to Concept (by the same publisher) – one player try to find words that the other players are trying to make them guess. All players get to write a clue, but if a clue is given by more than one player, it gets eliminated before the guesser has a chance to look at it! So clues need to be helpful but not obvious, and it’s generally speaking a lot of fun (and sometimes downright impressive). We got a box, because why not – it can be a nice change from Codenames πŸ˜‰

Paris: New Eden, Matagot – in a post-apocalyptic Paris, players try to re-build settlements by finding a good mix of people to populate them. To do that, they get to choose actions associated to dice that help get said people – so they need to optimize the choice and order of the actions to get what they want. I liked it quite a lot, but Pierre wasn’t convinced, so we didn’t get a copy.

Paris: New Eden, Matagot

And for the other buys…

  • A copy of PrΓͺt-Γ -Porter, at Portal Games – I had bought the Kickstarter on “theme + strong euro + Portal Games” and I got my copy delivered in Essen
  • Railroad Evolution, the expansion for Railroad Revolution, a game that we quite like – it seems to add a few mechanics, to “fix” what’s generally considered an overpowered track, and to be playable without much hassle on top of the original game.
  • Play Smart, a small book by Ignacy Trzewiczek (of Portal Games) about role-playing – I had enjoyed his previous two books, they’re funny (the guy knows how to tell an entertaining story – we went to see his seminar during the fair and it was both hilarious and touching) and that’s probably worth the read
  • Railroad Rivals – it was an Almost Buy last year, and it was on sale this year, so I didn’t resist πŸ™‚
  • A couple of SPIEL t-shirts, because they had a design contest (based on their logo) and the result is actually quite nice πŸ™‚
The Loot!

And that’s it for this year!